Featured, Local News

Killington resort, town, KPAA reflect on past year, look ahead to ‘normal’ winter

Semi-annual community meeting focuses on future growth, return of events

By Polly Mikula

KILLINGTON — On Tuesday, Oct. 19, community members gathered at Killington’s Grand Hotel for the semi-annual update from the resort, town and Killington Pico Areas Association (KPAA) — part of the One Killington initiative to bring the community together. Attending such a meeting is required for merchant season pass-holders. While subsequent meetings tend to be shorter (and will be conducted virtually this fall), the semi-annual kickoff event is a social occasion and also comes with free drinks and a wide selection of hors d’oeuvres (passed and stationary).

KPAA

The KPAA kicked off the presentation with past president Vicki Baraiolo from the Woods Resort & Spa passing that leadership role onto Amy Laramie from Killington Resort. The organization, which runs two major events each year — the Holiday Fest and the Wine Festival — announced “save the dates” for both. The Holiday Fest 2021 will be held Dec. 2-4; the Wine Festival will be July 15-16.

The organization reported $152,268 in revenue for 2020-21 with 77.34% coming from membership dues and 13.95% from events, which is down from its typical contribution due to pandemic cancellations/alterations. Rental space, grants, beautification and interest made up the balance.

It reported $143,483 in expenses with 38.59% coming from payroll, 16.3% from building costs, 14.16% coming from maintenance and 8.52% from events. Depreciation, marketing, insurance, professional services, supplies and professional development made up the balance.

Town of Killington

Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth took the mic next and gave a brief update on the state of the town, the affect the pandemic has had on finances (the town came up only $60,000 short in option taxes and received over $100,000 in ARPA funds), progress on golf course management (“golf has done the best it’s ever done… and is starting to pay its own way,” he said), and planned capital expenses. The latter includes the Killington Road Master Plan, which was bonded in 2014 and will become mature in 2024, at which point the town will begin reconstructing Killington Road, which was last done in 1987-88, Hagenbarth said.

Future plans also include public water infrastructure. The town is hoping to qualify for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and will also pursue grants, he said.

Killington Resort

Mike Solimano, president and CEO of Killington and Pico Resorts, took the stage last. He presented a brief summary of last winter, the summer and gave an overview of what to expect this winter.

Last winter, overall visits were down 17%, food and beverage were down 65%, lessons were down 70% and staffing down nearly 46% (1,750 employees in 2019 compared to 950 in 2021), Solimano said.

Predictably, visits by season pass-holders and midweek visits as well as uphill travel passes were up over the season prior, while day ticket sales and weekend visits were down.

“Those who were here, skied a lot!” Solimano summarized.

In fact, the resort had over 400 people make the 100 Day Club, with 18 having perfect attendance on the 100th day of operation. Most impressively, five skiers/riders had a perfect attendance for the entire season — not missing a single day on the mountain.

Moving to this past summer, Solimano reported that mountain bike visits were on track to hit the projected 50,000 visits by the time the season ends. The two summers prior (2019 and 2020) the resort had 37,000 mountain bike visits, in 2018 it was 30,000, in 2017 23,000 and in 2016 12,000. The exponential growth and popularity since Gravity Logic helped the resort on a 5-year build-out from 2014-2018 has been a boon for the resort and the entire region.

The resort now plans to re-engage Gravity Logic to discuss options for what its next 5-year expansion could look like, Solimano said. He promised more details at the spring update.

Solimano also reported a strong year for golf, with the resort investing over $200,000 in new machinery, course maintenance and automation of irrigation. In 2022, it plans to invest $515,000 for 60 new electric golf carts.

Events this summer were mostly back on track, too, with the resort hosting 30 conferences and 29 weddings, in addition to bike and golf events, Brewfest, Total Archery and Spartan Race.

Looking head to the upcoming winter season, Solimano said they’re expecting it to be a “normal winter… normal outside, anyway.”

The resort is not currently planning to require parking reservations, proof of vaccination or masking at any of its facilities (though masking indoors will be recommended). However, it has mandated vaccinations for all resort staff and volunteers and it is still discussing whether to put in place capacity limitation at select locations (such as the Peak Lodge).

For the FIS World Cup that’s returning over Thanksgiving weekend, the resort is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. The event will be fully ticketed this year, starting at $5 entry. A percentage of the proceeds will benefit the Killington World Cup Foundation. Events surrounding the races will also be limited, but there will be a vendor village and concerts outside, which will be announced in the next week or two, Solimano said.

He also said he hopes to bring back other popular events, including the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge.

Additionally, the Wobbly Barn will reopen this season (it wasn’t open last year), and there will be more food trucks to feed hungry skiers and riders, including: The Beastro at K-1, Rollin’ Rooster at Bear (there will be no mid-week cafeteria), and the Subie Shack at Snowshed.

The $30 million K-1 Lodge renovation, which was postponed mid-construction due to the pandemic, has been progressing once again and a “tear down” party has been schedule for Sunday, March 20, with the building set for completion by the 2022-23 winter season.

Additionally, the resort is making $5.2 million worth of investments this winter, which includes: snowmaking and lift improvements, technology improvements resort-wide, three Prinoth Groomers, a boot racking system and new rental fleet, and new Mammut uniforms.

It will spend another $2 million in raising wages, Solimano said, with the new base rate of pay starting at $15 per hour.

Killington has also committed to spending 3% of operating income on Play Forever projects, which include environmental initiatives as well as cash donations to the community.

Lastly, the resort has launched new digital offerings. This season, its 4241 magazine is available in a digital format only; it’s launched a new podcast and the resort will be rolling out QR code ordering at Showshed Long Trail Pub and K-1 Mahongany Ridge as well as mobile ordering for to-go orders. The resort is also improving its app, which offers real-time updates, lift wait times and tracking features. This season it will also include information about what trails and lifts are open, which will be helpful early and late season when the mountain is not fully open.

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!